Hundreds of Syrians detained in Homs begin hunger strike

Hundreds of Syrians detained in Homs begin hunger strike
Hundreds of people, many of them peaceful protesters and prisoners of conscience, who have been held in a prison in Homs have reportedly gone on hunger strike to demand their release and an end to inhumane treatment.
2 min read
30 December, 2014
Previously a base for the Syrian opposition, Homs is now in regime's hands (AFP)

Hundreds of prisoners have gone on hunger strike at a prison in the central Syrian city of Homs in protest at their continued detention, a detainee and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said on Tuesday. 

The prisoners include political detainees incarcerated for their opposition to the Syrian government and their participation in protests calling for the downfall of the Syrian regime nearly four years ago.  

200,000 people are said to have died in Syria since the conflict broke out.  

“Practically everyone in the prison – more than 1000 people – is taking part in a hunger strike that we began four days ago,” a detainee, who wished to remain anonymous, said in comments made by phone from the prison to AFP.  

“We demand to know our fate, and we demand freedom. Some people here have been sentenced to 30 years in jail for protesting peacefully. Others were imprisoned totally arbitrarily,” he added.  

The prisoner added that 12 prisoners had fainted as a result of the hunger strike, but that fellow detainees who were doctors were struggling to help them as a result of a lack of medicines.   

The Britain-based Observatory, a monitoring group, confirmed the news of the hunger strike.  SOHR said that many of the prisoners have completed their sentences and are awaiting release.  

They added that the hunger strikers were also protesting against “illtreatment by prison guards and a lack of food and medicines”.  

The hunger strikers’ demands include a meeting with National Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar. 

SOHR says that 200,000 people have been jailed by the Syrian regime since protests first broke out in 2011.
12,000 are reported to have died in detention.  

The initially peaceful protests led to an armed conflict between the government and various rebel factions that has been ongoing since then.  

Human rights groups have repeatedly criticized conditions in Syrian detention facilities, accusing the regime of widespread torture and abuse.  

Rebel groups have also faced criticism for their prison facilities

In its May 2014 report on torture, Amnesty International criticised the Syrian government for its use of brutal practices in dealing with detainees.  

“Reports of torture and other ill-treatment in Syria have skyrocketed since protests in March 2011 drew a brutal response from the authorities and led to an ongoing internal conflict,” Amnesty said.  

“The practice is used routinely against those detained for their suspected involvement in opposition activities, including peaceful activists and children,” they added.